Thursday, April 5, 2012

State Senator Gloria Romero Addresses School Board - Parent Trigger Law Petition

      Even as she affirmed support for Parent Revolution, Romero called the group's two petition tactic a "dubious strategic choice" that was bound to confuse parents.  She also criticized what she called "rookie political mistakes" in making demands she found politically unrealistic, such as a freer hand to hire and fire teachers, and allowing the debate to focus again on charter schools, which also occurred in Compton.

      In particular, Romero said presenting Adelanto parents with two petitions to sign was needlessly confusing and only aided those opposing the effort. ...     Romero also said several of the parents' goals, including changes in the curriculum and textbooks, could not be reached through in-district reforms.     "You cannot negotiate for something the district cannot do," Romero said.  "That's not negotiating in good faith."

     Meanwhile, the author of the 2010 parent trigger law, former state Sen. Gloria Romero said parents should be given one chance to revoke their signature within a specified time limit if they believe they were mislead into signing the petition.  "This would put the onus on organizers that you really have to be truthful and open and honest with parents," she said.

Note: The views posted on my blog are my own and should not be confused as statements  from the Adelanto School Board.  

Parent Empowerment

Parent empowerment is a good idea.  Our public school system was founded on local control - the original old G of parent empowerment.  The concept of a public school system was centered on community-based run education.  The system allowed for local people to be elected by the community to be trustees of their school district.  It evolved to allow parent involvement as volunteers, members of the school site councils, members of district committees, PTA, Boosters, and members of interview panels for teachers, principals, and superintendents.  

Unfortunately, the public school system is no longer centered on community-based run education.  Local control has been drained from public schools.  What we now have is only a facade of local control.  Education is now being run by politicians in state capitols and from Washington D.C.. The politicians, in turn, are influenced by the deep pocket affluence of nonprofit and for-profit organizations pushing their agenda on education.  

No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top grants are federal laws that are pushing states to adopt laws and policies that have been narrowing the curriculum and forcing our schools to be test prep institutions at the expense of science, social studies, and the arts.  The "essential standards" taught now are only the ones that appear on state tests.  Fear of punishment by state and federal government agencies is forcing all other subjects out of the curriculum.   Even U.S. Education Secretary Duncan has conceded this point.

Every dollar received in grants by schools from the state and federal government have strings attached to them that specifically directs how they should be spent.  They are called restricted funds - restricted because they can only be spent to satisfy a particular state or federal policy.  Local school districts only have real say on unrestricted funds that are almost all for employee salaries and benefits.  It is sad that local control now means that districts can cut the salaries and benefits of employees during the tough times, but have little say on how to spend other monies for education.

The California parent trigger law doesn't empower parents to fix any of these problems.  The parent trigger law is limited to imposing Race To The Top policies on local school districts.  The parent trigger law is a vehicle to obligate school districts to enforce one out of five Race To The Top intervention models on a failing school.  A real parent empowerment law would give parents the power to provide their school districts relief from onerous policies limiting our ability to provide a complete and better quality education for students. 

Charter schools, for example, are considered to be superior to traditional public schools because they are free from regulations and policies that hamper traditional public schools.  Well, then why not just provide similar freedom to school districts without the involvement of outside nonprofit or for-profit charter school organizations?

Aside from that thought, some parent empowerment is better than none.  The California parent trigger law allows for a petition of parent signatures representing 50% plus one of a failing school population to impose one of five Race To The Top intervention models on that school.

The intervention models are as followed:
1. Transformation - Replace the principal.
2. Turnaround - Replace the principal and 50% of all staff.
3. Restart - Convert the school into a charter.
4. Closure - Close the school.
5. Alternative Governance - Any other major restructuring of the school's governance.

The Adelanto School District

The Adelanto School District received a Restart Model parent trigger petition from parents calling themselves the Parent Union of Desert Trails Elementary School.  The petition called for converting that school into a charter.  Parent Revolution,  a nonprofit organization, provided the strategy, technical support, and a few staff members for this petition.  The school board determined that there were not enough verified valid signatures to accept the petition and is now going to be taken to court.

The failure of this parent trigger law petition should be attributed directly to Parent Revolution.  They mismanaged the process.  The school board of the Adelanto School District has always taken the position that they were going to comply with the law.  They had no interest in challenging the law.  Verifying for valid signatures on the petition is very much a part of the law.  Signatures that could not be verified as legitimate for various reasons or were rescinded were not counted.  

A major contention is the rescinded signatures.  The school board was caught by surprise as much as anyone else when a grass root movement of parents who felt that the signature campaign was confusing or misleading wanted to take back their signatures from the petition.  They submitted rescissions to take back their signatures.  And yes, they did receive support from CTA.

Parent Revolution's two petition strategy is the center of this controversy.  Parent Revolution had parents sign two different petitions.  The first petition was to force an alternative governance solution to improve the school.  The second petition, the one actually submitted, was to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school.  The purpose of the two different petitions has not been clear.  And the decision process to submit the charter school petition over the alternative governance petition has also not been clear. 

The Adelanto School Board held two public hearing that lasted for hours.  Parents from both sides of the issue addressed the board.  They conveyed two points of agreements. 1. They wanted a quality education for their children.  2. They did not want to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter school.

The Parent Union addressed the board with a powerpoint presentation.  In it they made clear that parents signed two different petitions.  They also made it clear that it was the least favored petition that was submitted.  Parent after Parent Revolution parent, when asked directly, stated that they did not want a charter school.

It begs the question. Why have parents sign two different petitions and submit the one with the Race To The Top intervention model that they don't want? The answer is baffling - it was strategy.  

According to the strategy, the two petitions were required to force the district into negotiations.  That is interesting because only one petition at the ready is actually needed to threaten a district into negotiations with the parent trigger law.  So why have parents sign two different  petitions?  And if a petition was going to be submitted - then why not submit the one desired by the parents?  Why not submit the petition that the parents were negotiating for?

A reasonable person can understand that a scenario has been created in which a parent can legitimately state that the signature process for two different petitions and the submission of the least favored charter petition was either confusing or misleading.  That being the case, why should they not revoke their signature from the petition?  The failure of this parent trigger law petition is not their fault.  Instead, the fault should be attributed directly to Parent Revolution and its two petition strategy.

State Senator Gloria Romero

The author of the California Parent Empowerment Law, former State Senator Gloria Romero, addressed the Adelanto School Board in support of the submitted parent trigger charter school petition.  In February, she called Parent Revolution's two petition strategy a "dubious strategic choice." At the board meeting she called it "smart" and "strategic."  In February, she supported allowing parents to revoke their signatures if they believe they were mislead into signing the petition.  At the board meeting she stated that the parent trigger law did not allow for rescissions.  

One can see how implementing the parent trigger law could be confusing or misleading.

Please join me in my reflections on 21st century learning.  I want to read your comments and opinions.  I will do my best to answer questions. 

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Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 1 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 2 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 3 - ADTA T.V

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 4 - ADTA T.V.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero Part 5 - ADTA T.V.

ADTA President La Nita Dominique Response - ADTA T.V.